A selection of images from Baltimore's "Little Italy." Courtesy of myspace.com/littleitalybaltimore. Used without permission or shame.)
I have a dream of one day moving to Baltimore, and buying a townhouse in the heart of Little Italy. I could probably afford it, but if it's anything like Georgetown, I'd probably have to buddy up to the right people. Not that anyone discriminates outright, mind you, but somehow it still comes down to who you know. Still, a man can dream. I'd probably be active at Saint Leo's on Exeter Street, help the good Father train the altar servers, maybe call bingo at the annual festival that takes over the streets about this time of year.
Did I mention I'm not the least bit Italian?
Some friends of mine are, though. And two of them grew up in New Jersey. So I know the deal, to some extent. I know that not everybody belongs to "the mob." But something like it is a reality in some old neighborhoods. It's not as if they're all killers. But in some ethnic enclaves (and I'm not just talking about Italians here), there's a guy who's always the "go-to guy" for getting things taken care of, one who is the primary benefactor of the local... er, uh, Benevolent Association, yeah, that's it. Like when if a man dies and leaves behind a widow, this pillar of the community takes it upon himself to ensure that "voluntary" contributions are taken up for the widow and her family. Of course, eventually you might have need of the same assistance, in which case one hand washes the other.
It is the excesses of this arrangement that become romanticized, to the point of a series on HBO known as "The Sopranos." Now, as much of a devotee of high-option cable as I am, I draw the line at the "premium channels." Who has time to watch movies all day? But the season finale of this coveted saga was last night, and the world watched to see who would "get whacked," and how.
I understand it wasn't pretty. The old salt who holds court at The Captain's Quarters is the "go-to guy" to learn more.
(At times like this, I really miss Jack.)